A little cottage friend

Yesterday at our family cottage I saw a chipmunk zip across the gravel road. I filled my pocket with peanuts and went outside.

I crouched down and held out a peanut. The chipmunk wasn’t shy! He (she?) hopped up and took it right out of my hand.

I gave him a few peanuts. (For simplicity, we’ll assume my little friend is male.) I didn’t know chipmunks could still eat when their cheeks are full! How did he decide which ones to eat and which ones to keep?

Eventually the chipmunk was brave enough to climb up onto my leg:

As you can see, the chipmunk only has half of its tail. I wonder what happened to it? I guess It won’t grow back?

While little Half-Tail sat eating peanuts on my leg, he actually let me stroke his back. I was so lucky! Half-Tail did have limits, though: I couldn’t convince him to climb up to my shoulder. I guess my leg was just fine.

Half-Tail would run off with cheeks stuffed with peanuts, then return a little while later following the exact same path. He would always stop at the base of the same tree, about five feet away from where I was sitting, to groom himself, before approaching me for more peanuts.

A few times it looked as though he could smell the peanuts from my pocket: He would come right up to my peanut-filled pocket and look as though he was trying to figure out how to get inside. I tried to open the pocket slightly but my movements always startled him away. I guess it was too risky for him to stick his head inside.

I wonder why the chipmunk decided to approach me in the first place? Could he actually smell the peanuts from that far away? (He was up the gravel road about 20 feet when I first tried to coax him toward me.) Was he attracted to the chipmunk sounds I was trying to mimick? Why approach a big, giant, lumbering creature like me in the first place?

Last year I was able to coax several chipmunks at the cottage to take peanuts from me. One of them had only half a tail. Was this the same chipmunk as last year? I couldn’t tell. But if it was, did Half-Tail recognize me as the same creature as last year? Maybe I have a distinctive smell? Or was it mostly visual recognition?

I wish I could peek inside that little brain of his.

Eventually I heard my own two little ones calling for me. Half-Tail had run off with peanut-full cheeks. I left the rest of the peanuts from my pocket on the ground where I had been sitting.

I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to say good-bye to Half-Tail. But maybe we’ll meet again next year?


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